Connecting Flights-Concerns and Solutions
Your Passport has been stamped with the Destination/s Visa/s and you are all geared up to book your tickets and fly.The Destination/s you have decided to visit may be serviced either by a Direct and a Non Stop flight or by Connecting flights with either one stopover and or may be two. Flights of the third kind are Direct but with a layover of a few hours at a transit destination before proceeding forward to the final destination.
Travellers always look for a Direct non stop flight for their itinerary as these are usually from one big Departure airport to another big Arrival airport without have to go any plane change. It also reduces the additional two or three hours that a Connecting flight adds to your journey.The second kind is a Direct flight with a layover of a couple of hours thus increasing the duration of the flying time.Also the layover information at times may or may not available at the time of making the reservation through travel portals.Typically the same aircraft or plane serves from the layover city to the Destination which means it is a single plane journey, but many such “Direct and Single plane ” flights may require you to change planes. To avoid missing this information,it is recommended to check and confirm this with the airline to be prepared for a connecting flight.Very Important to Note “that such connections with layovers or requiring you to pass through a foreign country en route to a different destination you may still need a “transit visa.” Please check this information from the Consulate/Embassy or High Commission of Layover/Enroute country or obtain information through their website. If visa is required then plan accordingly to have it in time before your departure.
Having said that it is always recommended to do a thorough research for multiple fare options with the same carrier or multiple combinations of carriers even though they add up an additional flying time of atleast three hours.Many a times the connecting flights with stopovers works out to be cheaper in terms of the cost than the direct options.So never mind if it is a short haul flight or a long haul one,connecting flights-either on the same carrier or many a times, a combination of carriers may work out to be the best fare option for your journey.Combination of carriers means one or many connecting flights.Hence please do not overlook the element of connecting flights from your flight itinerary if you want to have plenty of travel options.
Hence the third kind is the Connecting flights,either on the same Airline or a different Airline.A connecting flight on either of them will have different flight numbers for each leg of the itinerary. Plane change is a must for all Connecting flights.So how are these Connecting times for flights determined and who determines them?
MINIMUM CONNECTING TIME or MCT REQUIRED AT THE CONNECTION AIRPORT
Connecting flights set by airlines allow one-stop service from any City in one part of the Globe to another City in the other part of the Globe through their “base country” or “HUB COUNTRY” as it is known in the Airline lingo.A term called “Minimum Connecting Time or MCT” is used by every airline to set the standard Minimum Connecting Times or MCT between flights at each HUB Airport served by it. These connections are known as Airline Published Connections.An itinerary booked by selecting the Airline Published Connection flights of a Single Airline by whichever mode of reservation—either through a travel portal or the airline’s website or through a travel agent conforms with the applicable connecting times set by the Airline.However this process is not foolproof and puts you at a great risk of missing your connection.Unfortunately this risk cannot be completely done away with but measures are available to mitigate the risk.
KNOW YOUR AIRPORT-TERMINALS and GATES
The flights booked are sometimes through such large Airports,which are a complex network of terminals and gates. that many travelers are keen to avoid. One should choose a connection which allows plenty of time between two flights so that the flight transfers are a pleasurable experience. That said some big airport may still have only two or three terminals. In the event of your connecting flight being at the other end of the airport, it may only be a brisk and quick walk. However some big airports have many terminals [London’s Heathrow has five (5) ] and located at distances only to be commuted by a shuttle. In some cases you may have to take to walk a long distance to catch your connecting flight [Singapore’s Changi Airport has three (3) terminals located at a long distance from each other]. Even though the Terminal and Gate number for the connecting flight is printed on your Boarding pass,possibilities of Flight’s Gate number or Terminal number changing at the nth minute cannot be ruled out.Usually all the big HUB airports of the World are very busy with continuous departures and arrivals sometimes giving rise to delays.Though this is a constant phenomenon,it is advised to pick the right HUB for your connection if possible
OPT for SINGLE TICKET for CONNECTING FLIGHTS on A SINGLE AIRLINE
As far as possible book connecting flights on a single airline or on those airlines that are partners in an alliance [One World,Star Alliance].Typically, at the HUB airports, the airlines and their alliance partners try to ensure that both the gates are closed together before departure.
The advantages to book connecting flights on a Single Ticket on a Single Airline are :
1] Checked baggage will be through checked in through to your final destination.The baggage will also connect to the next plane along with you.Through check in of the Baggage to the final Destination will be suggested by the Airline agent behind the check-in counter attending to you but if they do not, then please do ask the airline check-in agent behind the counter if your baggage can be checked through to your final Destination.You will also receive boarding passes for both flights when you first check-in at the departure City. At the Connection Airport you will only need to find your boarding gate at your connecting airport and your baggage will also automatically follow.
2] If your inbound flight arriving into the Connecting City is delayed, this may lead to missing your Connection flight.In such a scenario it is the responsibility of the the airline to put you on the next available flight with no additional charges.
3]Tickets booked on two different carriers but having a Interline Agreement between the two of them for an International Destination also conform to the applicable Minimum Connecting Times.Some carriers if not all with Interline Agreements also offer through Baggage check-in upto the Final Destination.It is always good to check this with the airlines in question well in advance.But it is also true that even with valid Interline Agreement tickets,passing security check at one terminal and completing security at another sometimes could be a concern.
IMPORTANT : LAST CONNECTION FLIGHT MAY BE MORE OF A NUISANCE THAN AN ASSET
A very important point to be noted is to always avoid booking the last connecting flight out of the Connecting city even though it is a Single ticket on the same Airline.Yes in the event of the inbound flight being delayed,the airline has to book you on the next available flight,but if the last flight for the day has departed,the next available connection will only be the following morning which means not only are you delayed by a day but you also have to spend the night at the airport itself.Stay at a hotel may require you to get out of the airport for which a Visa is required.
RECOMMENDED AIRPORT CONNECTION TIMES
What are the recommended times for connecting flights.?
On their website though,Airlines do not display connecting times for connections with different Airlines.This information is available with Travel Agents and Companies who use the The Global Distribution System or (GDS).So if you use a Travel Agent for your ticket reservation then do confirm this point if your itinerary involves two different carriers.[The other sources which lists Minimum Connecting Times or MCT data on a worldwide scale is the International Air Transport Association or IATA. However this information is not available to the public].Airlines often post minimum times that are shorter than IATA times.
So the next travel itinerary booked with the help of a travel agent or booked online with Travel Portals, please keep in mind to factor in the Minimum Connecting Times between flights.Inbound or Outbound flight being an International or a Domestic flight could impact the Airport Connection Times.Some of the recommendations are :
⇒A Single Airline may at times use two different Terminals for the connection flight.Airlines should factor and they consider this time required to transfer between these Terminals when setting Minimum Connecting Times.As a traveller a good advise is to inform and educate yourself about Terminal Numbers well at the time of departure.
⇒If it is Domestic flight connecting to a Domestic flight – minimum one hour or 60 minutes connection time is the best.Exceptions are Domestic flights in China where a two hour or a bit more than two hours connection time should be factored in.
⇒ If you are connecting from a Domestic flight to an International flight – Two (2) hours is the safest. They can also exceed two hours if the Connection Airport has separate Terminals for Domestic and International Flights. Addition to connecting time can be if the aircraft for the Connection flight is a Jumbo Jet or a bigger equipment.
⇒ If you arrive on an International flight and are connecting to a domestic flight,then please allow a minimum of two hours and maybe 30 minutes more between the two as you will need to complete all arrival formalities of Immigration Check or Passport Control, Customs and Security at the first point of entry in the International route.You will also have to collect your baggage at his point and recheck them in for the Domestic Flight.If the International and Domestic Terminals are located at a distance from each other,then the time needed to move from one terminal to the other also needs to be borne in mind. The best example is on a International Flight MUMBAI-NEWYORK (Direct or by Connecting Flights) and where all arrival formalities have to be completed and baggage collected to connect to a Domestic Flight NEWYORK-SAINT LOUIS or NEWYORK-SALT LAKE CITY for which the baggage and checkin will have be redone
⇒International flight connecting to another International flight [a minimum of 90 minutes one and a half hours if the connection is on the same Airline or an Alliance partner].The Minimum Connecting Times or MCT varies from Airline to Airline.Each Airline has set the MCT at each of the HUBS served. Since the Airline is well versed with the location of the terminals and the Geography of its HUB airport,it sets the connecting times for different flights accordingly.So A Connection between two International Flights,[same carrier or the alliance partner] can be all of fifty (50) minutes to sometimes even two (2) hours and may be more.These transfers are usually hassle free but at some Airports you might have to go through a security check, validate your Boarding Pass again,change terminals, reconfirm the gate numbers and lastly check the time of closure of the Boarding gate of the Connecting Flight.
Connection on the same Airline is shown by an example.Our Airline is Emirates and this is an International itinerary on a Single ticket on a Single Airline.All Departure and Arrival Times are local times
Departure Flight : MUMBAI-DUBAI [Connecting City]-SAN FRANCISCO
The outbound flight MUMBAI-DUBAI arrives into DUBAI AIRPORT at 06.05 HRS in Terminal 3
The connecting flight is DUBAI-SAN FRANCISCO is scheduled to depart at 08.45 HRS from Terminal 3
Checkin happens upto San Francisco
Return Flight : SAN FRANCISCO-DUBAI [Connecting City]-MUMBAI
The outbound flight SAN FRANCISCO-DUBAI arrives into DUBAI AIRPORT at 19.25 HRS[7.25 PM] in Terminal 3
The connecting flight is DUBAI-MUMBAI is scheduled to depart at 21.50 HRS [09.50 PM] from Terminal 3
TWO SEPARATE TICKETS OR TWO AIRLINE TICKETS IS BEST AVOIDABLE
Minimum Connecting Times apply only to Through tickets or Multiple flights on a Single Ticket.It is not at all recommended to have two separate tickets for Connecting Flights.The disadvantages of doing so are manifold
⇒If you are booked on two separate tickets and booked on two separate Airlines, baggage checkin is only upto the Connection city on the first airline.When you disembark at the Connecting city you will have to claim your baggage,pass through security,then reload and recheck-in for the second flight at the Airline’s Counter,re do the complete Check-in process to catch the next flight.It is but obvious that a lot of additional connection time will be required.
⇒ If you are booked on two separate tickets and booked on two separate Airlines and the first incoming flight is delayed,then the airline is under no obligation to put you or make arrangements for your Connecting flight.The second flight or the Connecting Flight will depart on its schedule leaving you behind as a No-Show Passenger. You can request the Airline to accommodate you on their next flight without additional cost but it may be not a guarantee that will be accepted
⇒ Sometimes, separate tickets can be on the same airline as well.They could be normal revenue tickets bought separately and may be some airline discounted or free ticket along with a purchased ticket again bought separately.Through Check-ins and Baggage Check-in upto the Destination city can be requested to the Airline Agent at the Counter which may or may not be accepted.
Two separate tickets issued on two different Airlines as Connecting flights.The connecting time between the two flight over 2 hours,but please bear in mind that the check in will not be to the final Destination.The first checkin will be done upto London.You will need to pass though security,collect your baggage and recheck in again for the connecting or destination flight
Departure Flight : MUMBAI-LONDON
The outbound flight MUMBAI-LONDON arrives into the HEATHROW AIRPORT at 06.45 HRS in Terminal 4
Checkin will be done only uptil London
Connecting Flight : LONDON-SINGAPORE
The connecting flight LONDON-SINGAPORE departs from the HEATHROW AIRPORT at 09.25 HRS from Terminal 2
Recheck in to be done at London again for this flight
SCHEDULE THE CONNECTING FLIGHT
As discussed, if you are booked on a single ticket with the same Airline and miss a connection, the airlines involved are obligated to put you on the next available flight provided a seat is available on the next flight.This cannot always be the case.Some of those minimum connecting times posted by Airlines are incredibly short for a big airport,sometimes as low as 30 minutes.In such a scenario,after disembarking from the first flight, a walk to the departure gate for the next flight may be a good 30 minutes and before your realise it, the connection time has become zero. In order to avoid these surprises,many travellers choose schedules with a longer layover than the minimum quoted by the Airline.Airlines usually allow a maximum of four hours or more connecting time. Airlines with a good network of flights on both the segments facilitates to the extended layover.But the situation is just the opposite if the Airline has only one close connecting flight to the destination City.You just cannot afford to miss it.In case of two separate tickets issued,one must allow at least three to four between connections
PLAN APPROPRIATELY FOR SHORTER CONNECTIONS
If at all you realize that you have been booked on a Connection is shorter than the recommended time then do not panic.You can still make the connection smoothly.Here’s how
⇒First one is to try and rebook it to a flight with a longer layover time for a fee.However if that is not feasible then consider the following measures.May not be foolproof but is worth a try.
⇒ Consider only bringing on Carry-On luggage only especially for Shorter Connections.Checked baggage will be checked through the Destination for Single ticket on a Single Airline.But dragging a carry-on bag on wheels or otherwise from one end of a huge terminal to another, can be a tiring one and leave you gasping for breath.
⇒ In the time of a tight Connection,a seat near the front side of the cabin on the first departure flight will help you disembark quickly to make your connection.You can request the airline for this at the time of Checkin and if you are able to get the front seat even by paying a fee it is worth it as it can save atleast 10 minutes off your deplaning time if not more.
⇒ Download one or more smartphone apps that can help you with the connection process by tracking delays and posting up-to-date information on departure gates while you are in air in the first flight.
⇒ As advised try for a seat at the front end,but if you are not then try requesting for help from the flight attendant to switch seats to the front. In times of a short connection time you can also ask for a switch with one of the fellow travellers who may not be in a rush and may be ready to oblige.
Prepare to disembark.Listen for any announcements made in the aircraft during your flight. The pilot or flight attendants may sometimes announce information related to your next flight.Terminal number,its location and gate numbers and changes if any near the end of the flight,or while you are taxiing to the gate.
⇒ If your connection is tight, gather your carry-on baggage and other items before the announcement to settle in your seats and put on the seat belt for the descent of the aircraft seat belt sign goes on so that you can save time.
⇒ Keep your Boarding pass for the next flight along with your Passport and customs form if traveling internationally ready and handy in a secure but easily accessible place such as the hand purse or inside the coat pocket.
ALWAYS RECONFIRM YOUR FLIGHTS AND CHECK FLIGHT STATUS ON THE TRAVEL DAY
The most Important thing you need to do even before you get to the airport is to call the airline or check on the status of your flights on the day of your flight.Always remember to call and make sure your flights are scheduled on time, so you have time to make any changes if necessary. You can also call the airline for any questions or concerns, for which they can provide solution specific and related to your itinerary